Craig Calcaterra

Rogers Centre

It ain’t going to be easy to put grass in Rogers Centre

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Last year reports circulated that the Blue Jays were looking into putting natural grass in Rogers Centre once the stadium stops being used for football as well as baseball. Good plan! A lot of Jays players and would-be Jays players have cited the wear and tear artificial turf puts on their bodies, and at this point, you have to wonder if having the fake stuff puts the Jays at a competitive disadvantage. The game has changed a lot since they designed that place.

But putting grass in that place won’t be easy. John Lott in the National Post explains just how hard it will be to grow the green stuff in that joint from a technical perspective.

Good luck, guys.

Report: the Yankees are interested in Johan Santana

National League New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana during first inning action in Washington
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This is not a report from 2006: Dan Martin of the New York Post reports that the Yankees are interested in Johan Santana.

As we noted over the weekend, Santana is embarking on another, possibly final comeback, playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. There have been some reports that he’s hitting 90 on the gun, but we’ve heard that before.

At this point he’d likely be had by giving him a minor league deal with a spring training invite, so it’ll cost essentially nothing to see if he can still get major league hitters out. Best case: you have a lefty who could possibly help out in the pen. Worst case: you’re out nothing. The Yankees gave Billy Crystal a spring training at bat once. It really doesn’t matter if they bring Santana in for a few weeks in February and March.

So yeah, expect to see Johan Santana in a spring training game for someone, even if it seems like a longshot that he’ll pitch in big league games that count again.

 

The owners meetings this week will address pace-of-play concerns, fete Bud Selig

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York
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The owners will have their quarterly owners meeting this week. It’s the last one over which Bud Selig will preside as commissioner, as he will step down in 11 days. It’s also a good reminder that, for reasons that someone obviously has, Selig will be paid $6 million a year as a retired person. Really, someone woke up one day and thought to himself, “hey, we should give Bud $6 million a year until he dies to do absolutely nothing.” Then he took that to a committee and if anyone thought that maybe that wasn’t the best use of $6 million, that person lost the argument.

I love baseball owners.

On the actual agenda: the pace of play issue. As David Lennon of Newsday reports, the owners will consider the innovations and experiments employed in the Arizona Fall League such as the pitch clock and rules regarding staying in the batter’s box. It’s unclear if the owners will recommend the adoption of any of these things — reports are that the pitch clock is a non-starter now — but they will discuss it all. Baseball doesn’t do rules changes quickly, of course.

But even if they don’t do anything with that, it will be a good meeting if for no other reason than the solid gold telephone they present to Bud and the magical moment he cuts into the cake they have given him in the shape of a minor leaguer’s maxed-out credit card and/or bag of off-brand hamburger helper on which he is forced to subsist.

Must-click link: John Hirschbeck’s Survival Guide

Hirschbeck
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Today Anthony Castrovince has the story of the many, many trials of umpire John Hirschbeck. It’s a hard read.

Hirschbeck has lost two sons to ALD, a rare genetic disease. One son died at age 7. The other, last year, at age 27, which caused him to miss almost the entire season. Add in two bouts of cancer and leg injuries last year and Hirschbeck has had anything of an easy go of it off the field.

But he is carrying on, because that’s what one does. Carrying on with the support of his family and his faith and his desire to end his umpiring career on the field on his own terms as opposed to off the field due to tragedy.

Yankees executive’s 1945 pro-segregation letter is up for auction

Larry MacPhail
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The New York Daily News reports that a 1945 letter from Yankees executive Larry MacPhail to New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia justifying baseball’s color line is up for auction. LaGuardia had formed a committee, the purpose of which was to study segregation in baseball and, ultimately, pressure the New York teams to sign black players. Here, in part, was MacPhail’s response:

“There are few, if any, negro players who could qualify for play in the major leagues at this time. A major league player must have something besides natural ability . . . In conclusion: I have no hesitancy in saying that the Yankees have no intention of signing negro players under contract or reservation to negro clubs.”

MacPhail was not a lone wolf in this regard, of course. In saying what he said here he was echoing what many if not most executives in major league baseball were saying about black players: that they weren’t talented enough or lacked that special something — never precisely defined — that would allow them to succeed. It was, at the time, probably considered a “hey, it’s not us, it’s them!” kind of defense that kept them from having to admit that they simply did not want to have black people around.

Of course, such attitudes didn’t die two years later when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. It would be years before the Yankees — by then no longer run by MacPhail — put a black player on their roster. The Red Sox, who were the last baseball team to sign a black player, didn’t put one on the field until 1959.

And the attitude continued for managers — no team had a black manager until the 1970s — and front office personnel. Remember Dodgers executive Al Campanis saying that blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager” in 1987? 1987! Campanis, of course, played in the Dodgers organization when MacPhail ran that team. Many of the men who ran baseball as late as the 1980s had their roots in baseball’s segregated past and came of age in the game with mentors and bosses like MacPhail.

But that’s how institutionalized racism works. It’s rarely someone frothing at the mouth, voicing epithets. It’s usually people in power asserting things as if they are immutable truths of the universe and that the speaker is powerless to change it. And then a lot of people believe it, defend the status quo against charges of personal bias or animus, either as a cover or because, due to their socialization into the system, they never much thought to question it. And onward life goes.

And then the personal agency of the people who perpetuated that status quo is scrubbed from history. To wit, in 1978 Larry MacPhail was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And no one once thought that the character clause should keep him out because, hey, he didn’t do anything wrong . . .